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Oyster Bay recycling hauler wants contract renegotiated, officials say

The Old Bethpage Landfill site on Bethpage-Sweet Hollow

The Old Bethpage Landfill site on Bethpage-Sweet Hollow Road on June 26, 2017, in Old Bethpage. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Winters Bros. Hauling of Long Island is seeking to renegotiate its single-stream recycling contract with Oyster Bay, town and company officials said Monday.

“They notified us last week that they are seeking to exercise their right to suspend their contract due to the change in the marketplace,” town spokesman Brian Nevin said Monday.

William Flower, vice president of the West Babylon-based waste management company, said Monday the company notified the town that because of unforeseen circumstances in China, "the contract will have to be renegotiated.”

China, which had been a major recipient of U.S. waste for recycling, has stopped accepting many materials from other countries.

“It’s not the town’s fault, it’s not Winters Brothers fault, it is a ... situation in which a foreign government has created the collapse of the commodities market for recycling,” Flower said.

Town and company officials plan to meet Tuesday to discuss the contract, Nevin said. Town officials had scheduled a special meeting town board meeting for Tuesday to consider emergency recycling, but that meeting was canceled and Winter Bros. agreed to continue under the existing contract for now, Nevin said.

“The town’s taking the approach that the contract is enforceable,” Nevin said.

Brookhaven Town's single-stream recycling contractor, Hudson Baylor, has raised similar concerns, town director of operations Matt Miner said Monday. Brookhaven officials plan to meet with the company on Wednesday.

"We expect them to honor their contract," Miner said.

The Oyster Bay town board in August 2017 approved the contract under which Winters Bros. would pay the town $25.08 for every ton of recyclable material it collected through 2018, with options to renew.

Nevin said the company now wants to instead charge $65 for every ton of waste it collects, regardless of the type of garbage.

Flower declined to talk about details of the negotiation.

Oyster Bay's single-stream program began in October, and the town sold some of its dual-stream recycling trucks.

In single-stream programs, all recyclables are picked up together and then sorted later by the contractor. In dual-stream recycling, residents and businesses separate paper and cardboard from plastic, metal and glass.

Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino last year touted the change to single stream as a financial boon.

“This single-stream recycling initiative is estimated to generate at least $2 million for our taxpayers over the next five years,” Saladino said at the Aug. 22 meeting before the contract was approved. “When you factor in the cost of selling our recycling trucks, that's another million dollars.”

The revenue has come in ahead of projections with the town billing Winters Bros. $347,669 for the first nine months of the program, town data shows.

China announced its intentions a month before the town approved the Winters contract. Chinese officials notified the World Trade Organization that the country would stop accepting shipments of items such as waste plastic and paper from foreign countries by the end of 2017, according to news reports in July 2017.

“China is backing away from taking as much of our recycled goods,” said R. Lawrence Swanson, director of the Waste Reduction and Management Institute at Stony Brook University. And if there is no place to send the material — no market for it — much of it will end up in landfills, he added.

“We’re going to have to start rethinking what we can do with the material,” Swanson said.